Sweeping Environmental Wins in Oregon’s 2023 Legislative Session

At the end of the 2023 Oregon Legislative Session, OEC is proud to have secured several major policy victories that will benefit Oregonians and our shared environment. Thanks to our coalition partners, supporters, and legislative champions, the Oregon legislature delivered critical action to reduce climate and air pollution, support healthy, affordable, resilient communities, and leverage once-in-a-lifetime federal funding for clean energy and clean water infrastructure.

Healthy Climate & Resilient Communities

Photo by Jason Quigley.

Recognizing the urgent need to cut climate pollution and increase community resilience, legislative champions developed a comprehensive “Climate Resilience Package” (HB 3409 & HB 3630) that will make Oregon communities safer, healthier, more resilient, and affordable. The package–which will soon be signed into law by Governor Kotek–includes more than a dozen priority climate action bills,  including the Resilient, Efficient Buildings policy package and the Natural Climate Solutions bill.

Specific policy priorities included in the package include:

  • Healthy Heating & Cooling for All
    • Accelerates statewide heat pump deployment and ramps up other energy efficiency efforts like weatherizing and retrofitting existing homes to save money and energy while increasing Oregonians’ resilience. 
  • Build Smart from the Start
    • Improves building codes for new construction, codifying an update to Oregon’s base building code so that all new buildings are constructed to be more energy efficient and resilient from the start. 
  • Building Performance Standard
    • Improves the energy efficiency of large, energy-intensive commercial buildings across the state through the adoption of a Building Performance Standard and incentives. 
  • Smart State Buildings
    • Reduces barriers for state-owned buildings to be made healthier and more energy efficient. 
  • Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) “One Stop Shop”
    • Supports ODOE in establishing and administering two energy efficiency programs to help efficiently and equitably administer $114 million in expected federal funding to Oregonians.
  • Oregon Climate Modernization 
    • Supports staffing and expanded representation on the Oregon Global Warming Commission. 
  • Natural Climate Solutions
    • Supports statewide forestland owners, farmers, and ranchers to implement climate-smart land management practices, improving the resilience of Oregon communities and natural resource economies. 
  • Community Resilience Hubs
    • Funds community resilience hubs and networks across the state to provide access to resources for vulnerable populations during disasters.
  • Climate Protection Program Oversight
    • Supports DEQ oversight and accountability of Oregon’s cornerstone Climate Protection Program to ensure the Community Climate Investment program achieves its intended climate pollution reduction goals and benefits for communities of color, rural, low-income, Tribal, and other communities across the state. 
  • Siting Renewable EnergyWindmills over green terrain 
    • Directs DLCD in coordination with ODOE to find opportunities and minimize conflicts on siting of solar projects in Oregon through engaging stakeholders in a rulemaking advisory committee process.
  • State Energy Strategy
    • Directs ODOE to develop a comprehensive state energy strategy that identifies optimized pathways to achieving the state’s energy policies. 
  • County Energy Resilience Planning
    • Supports counties’ development of energy resilience planning and integration into wildfire mitigation plans. 
  • Environmental Justice and Tribal Navigator
    • Establishes a program within ODOE to provide information about state and federal funding opportunities and other technical assistance to rural, Tribal, and other environmental justice communities as they work to develop energy projects or build energy-related capacity.
  • Residential Solar Rebate Program Extension
    • Lifts sunset on solar and storage project rebates for residential customers and low-income service providers, extending the program through January 2029, enabling the program to potentially receive and distribute tens of millions in federal funding from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
  • Residential Heat Pump Program Extension
    • Supports implementation of ODOE’s Residential and Community Heat Pump Deployment Programs established by the 2021 legislature to bring much-needed heat relief to Oregon communities.
  • Community Renewable Energy Grant Program
    • Provides funding for ODOE’s Community Renewable Energy Grant Program, established by the legislature in 2021, to support planning and developing community renewable energy and energy resilience projects​.

Justice and Health

Protections for workers on the frontline of climate change, and for the health of all Oregonians, won big in 2023! Here are some of our major victories:

  • Toxic Free Kids modernization act (HB 3043)

    Little boy at the shelf in kids store, side view. Son choosing toys in supermarket, family shopping, young customer buying model

    • Updates and strengthens the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2015  to include authority to regulate classes of chemicals, and to remove the limits on the number of chemicals that can be regulated in kid’s products.
  • Toxic Free Cosmetics (SB 546)
    • Removes harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers from personal care products.
  • Right to Refuse Dangerous Work (SB 907)
    • Outdoor and other frontline workers in Oregon often experience the worst of climate impacts, such as extreme heat and wildfire smoke. This bill would strengthen a worker’s right to refuse hazardous work, such as if it is dangerously hot outside to work, amongst other conditions. 
  • Plastics Reduction and Polystyrene Ban (SB 543)
    • Reduces plastic pollution by banning single-use plastic, PFAS, and Styrofoam food containers that have negative impacts on human health and our waterways. 

Resilient Lands, Waters, and Rural Economies

All Oregonians should have access to a safe and clean natural environment. This includes, affordable, and plentiful drinking water, and a natural resource economy that is sustainable and thriving for rural Oregonians.

With climate change exacerbating many challenges faced by rural Oregon, OEC worked hard to achieve critical successes. Key policies for rural Oregon were also folded into packages of Legislation. Here are some key victories:

  • Drought and Water Security Budget funding will, among other things, 
    • Help rural well water users test their drinking water for contaminants and to help provide in-home remediation for contaminated drinking water
    • Improve drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, particularly for small, rural and underserved communities
    • Implement and improve agricultural irrigation efficiencies
    • Protect drinking water sources
    • Increase protections and provides funding for protecting Oregon’s groundwater and surface water supplies
    • Support regional place-based water planning efforts across Oregon
  • Natural Climate Solutions (included in the the Climate Package)
    • Supports statewide forestland owners, farmers, and ranchers to implement climate-smart land management practices, improving the resilience of Oregon communities and natural resource economies. 

Clean and Equitable Transportation

Electric buses charging for public transportation options.

In addition to working on making buildings more energy efficient, OEC also focused on another key driver of pollution in Oregon: Transportation. Here are some of our key victories:

  • Clean and Healthy Routes to Schools (HB 3014)
    • The “Bike Bus Bill”, this important Legislation helps school districts explore transportation alternatives to traditional school buses.
  • Medium and Heavy Duty Electric Vehicle Rebate Program
    • Creates a new rebate program for medium- and heavy-duty zero emission vehicles using federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

These successes are made possible through your support and that of your fellow OEC members across the state. Thank you. Please consider making a special contribution today in honor of all we’ve achieved together. Your support will bolster our work as we continue to fight for Oregon’s future.

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